September Sundays end today, so it’s our good fortune to again publish Paul Curran’s weekly Cuppa column. Usual host Willow of willowdot21 has been leaving our Canadian friend’s way with words to us here, direct from Canada. On you go, Paul. Trust me, friends, this is a good one …
If We Were Having Coffee
How to Screw the Customers During Coffee Break
Your Barista – Paul
Welcome to Willow’s weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here once again. For the next few weeks Willow will not be able to access her internet dependably so we’ll be meeting here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the backyard. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B have prepared a nice, comfy place for us outside on the newly mown lawn of the Little Bitty, so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is warm at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit with a few clouds. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger. We can relax with a cuppa and calorie-free electronic sweets while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been?
My fellow blogger Victo Dolore over at Behind the White Coat did a post this week entitled “Trust Issues” (https://doctorly.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/trust-issues/ ) about prescribing anti-depressants, which unfortunately have some serious side effects. In the post she mentions that Paxil, one such drug produced by Glaxo, was review recently, and it was found that the original testing interpretation was flawed. That, in fact, the drug was ineffective and had a much higher risk of creating serious issues, including suicide, than was originally reported. There was a great deal of discussion in the comments about the trust issue with respect to drug manufacturers. It was generally agreed that drug manufacturers were suspect at the best of times.
Volkswagen in Disgrace
Then the following day I was reading the news and lo and behold there was the Volkswagen scandal. I couldn’t believe my eyes that the world’s second largest manufacturer of cars had produced 11 million vehicles that had defeat devices incorporated. Those are devices whose sole purpose is to give false low emissions readings during testing. It turns out that 11 million Volkswagens have been spewing up to 40 times the legal limit of some pollutants. Meanwhile, because of the installed defeat devices, they were all testing as if they were well within the legal limits. This was done deliberately to decrease cost and increase sales by giving higher fuel mileage. Apparently the whole organization at Volkswagen was in on this little deception perpetrated on all their customers. Unbelievable – but true.
Would you like a refill? Perhaps a sweet? Apparently this little problem was discovered by an American non-profit testing institute that was curious about the technology differences between European and American engines with respect to emissions. They got a grant of $50,000 to check out three cars – two of which were Volkswagens. They drove these vehicles about 4,000 miles around California and when they checked the data they found the third car had legal emissions and the Volkswagens were not even close. In fact, they were so far out they thought they had made an error in either the testing or the math. Turns out the results were correct – the Volkswagens were spewing emissions. They reported this to the EPA and the ball started rolling from there.
And The Headaches Have Just Begun
Sp far Volkswagen has lost 34 percent of its market cap in three days – over $25 billion of investor money just vaporized. And that is just the beginning. The American fines alone could be over $18 billion USD. And then there will be the cost of repairing the cars – which could top $10 billion dollars –if they can be fixed. The CEO has resigned and many Volkswagen officials have been suspended or fired.
Talk about trust issues. Of course as we stand on the sidelines and watch mighty companies falling one by one for cheating and deceiving the public and governments, one has to wonder just how many do things like this and get away with it? My guess is that many of them do. Having spent time with the Executive of a major Canadian retailer, I have seen this sort of thing happening behind the scenes. But the big surprise with Volkswagen was that they allowed 11 million vehicles out into the public domain where their deceit could be discovered at any time. They must have been hugely arrogant to think that no one would ever catch them. Volkswagen must have thought that the rest of the world was too stupid to ever catch them breaking the law. Blows me away. I’ve seen deceitful practices in business before, but I have never seen any company be so arrogant as to perpetrate the deceit on all their customers and think that no one was smart enough to catch them.
When I worked as a business analyst, I helped write a payment on receipt program for a major retailer. This allowed posting direct to the accounts payable ledger when a store received product – basically enterprise computing such that store receiving entries were processed as payable entries. This bypassed the need to process invoices and cut out a full department of 10 people in accounts payable and saved about $1 million per year, growing year after year. The program was very complex and I wrote the product spec (what the end user saw) and the programming logic. There were 12 programmers who wrote the code from that. The VP of Finance was the project lead and when we were grappling with how to handle purchase order shortages or short shipments he insisted that we do a credit to ourselves of the full price of the product, even though we were being charged much less than that with volume and other discounts. So we were paying, for instance, $3 for a scarf and if we were shorted, we credited ourselves $10. Basically that was cheating the vendor out of funds. Now there were sometimes fees levied for incomplete PO’s or wrong product – anything that would cost us money to fix or lose us sales. I was fine with that – business is business – but deliberately shorting the vendor on payment was unethical in my mind. I objected to this and was told to keep my mouth shut – if the vendor wanted to dispute a payment they were free to do so and corrections would be made at that time. Meanwhile, we deliberately wrote a computer program that was designed to short pay suppliers by thousands of dollars per year.
This experience was with a company that I considered moral and ethical in all its dealings. They treated employees well, paid well, had an excellent bonus structure, an excellent benefit package, good management, etc. And when they thought they wouldn’t get caught, they had no scruples about cheating. They were super sensitive about their image and would not cheat if they thought they would get caught – but if they thought they would get away with it, they had no hesitation in cheating and acting unethically.
That’s about all we have room for this week, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week. We look forward to seeing you for tea and drinks here for the rest of the month of September.